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2 important leadership, learning & performance lessons from my first Spartan Race

I am 50 this year and instead of creating a mid-life crisis, I decided to make a positive step and challenge myself outside the norm. I wanted to achieve something and challenge my performance. Doing a Spartan Race certainly did that. http://www.spartanrace.sg/en

I am pretty fit; I go to the gym, I swim, I walk. You get the picture. This was different…
It took three months of training, developing muscles I hadn’t used for years (or ever), working with new people as a team and, finally, the day itself, a fantastic feeling as we crossed the finish line, everyone intact, exhausted and elated!
This was about achievement of something new, a different kind of performance with a new team, which bonded and performed at a new level…I had to unlearn what I knew about fitness and stamina, relearn new techniques and learn to integrate these skills into my performance toolkit over weeks of further personal development. I was totally committed.

On reflection there are so many parallels to my current leadership situation and how I have adapted my approach, style and more having been involved in the Spartan Race. It is having a marked impact on how I have re-oriented my own focus and the team’s over the last few months particularly.  It has made a difference – in quantifiable, actual terms.

As a result I realise anew that sometimes we must change the game to get out of the rut, find different ways to work and perform at new levels. Here is what I learned, actioned and impacted.

  • Leadership, team and performance
The learning The link
Refresh your goals and re-energise the focus Yes, we have KPIs / annual targets etc. but finding new ways to work in the current acceleration of things is crucial to success. I realised that I “thought” I was focused. This experience gave me another perspective and helped me fine tune the vision, refine the strategy and renew operational execution with and through my team. It is working…
There are new challenges to tackled. So tackle them. I have been in a senior leadership role for 16 years and I am driven. I believe in results through people and I believe in stretching the possibilities in business terms. 16 years on, it’s easy at times to get into a rut and coast. Not just when things are going well but when they are not. Leaders in this day and age can get battle-weary; and I have been. This Spartan experience re-wired my mental attitude and forced me into a change (even though there was some resistance inside me). The change helped me to relook at the business, myself, the team, the possibilities and DO differently – particularly on certain nagging issues. This made a huge impact to me earlier this year and put a spring back in my step – and, as a result, into my team and our first half performance.
Encourage new levels of leadership and  performance from your team At the Spartan I was in a new group of people – 90% I had never met. We formed, we stormed, we normed, we stormed some more (especially on critical training days!) and then we performed when it counted.

It required each person in that team to take a leadership role at times to take up the slack, support those driving the agenda from the beginning, picking those up when motivation started to wane and come in with new ideas when new thinking was required or new techniques needed.

Leadership at any level was a critical learning and the empowerment of my team, which has always been central to my style, has received a new coat of paint. Challenging them to lead in different ways; not just in their current role / focus but as  contributors to wider business. This broader empowerment was lacking and now it’s in play, it is paying dividends

 

  • Learning and performance – It starts with you
The learning The link
We can forget how to learn and think / do differently Yes, I know, I work for a Learning Company! That is how easy it is to forget 😊 – I have always worked closely with my team to support, coach, manage and evolve but again that has sometimes been at the expense of my own learning journey. I need development as much as the next leader and it was the Spartan that brought it home to me loud and clear.
I needed to unlearn, relearn and learn some more. Change the way I exercised and worked within a team, to deliver the performance I and we needed. I had to practice, practice and practice, having a couple of epic fails on the way and then found the path to success.

It is exactly the same for the workplace. I changed my game and it is benefitting the business in both qualitative and quantitative ways. This is not without a couple of false starts and a little re-engineering of course! It took time but with commitment and the will to learn and do differently the change came good.I urge you all in management and leadership to remember how to learn! It works.

New personal goals drive new possibilities See above. I am re-energised, learning again and it is infectious across my team. There is a complete, solid, obvious link to performance and I have reminded myself of the power of learning in relation to what can be achieved individually, with others and as a business.

This seems a counter-intuitive thing to say as a learning professional, so imagine this – there are many leaders out there who don’t see it, won’t see it, are unwilling to see it. This needs to change in the age of disruption we are living and working in. It requires new visioning, new goals and inspiring new possibilities within self and others.
Leaders and Managers in many organisations I work with NEED to change the game… What is everyone waiting for..?

So – I won’t be waiting for my 60th to do something different again. I have my eye on my next Spartan, a Temple Run, a new way of working with our customers, a more integrated and broader level of team empowerment and more. I am enthused, positive and renewed.

I am so convinced we can do more and help that we have themed our upcoming event (Twitter and Instagram #CegosDisrupt) entirely around creating this positive attitude for changing the way we lead, manage and get to action.  http://www.cegos.com.sg/leading-managing-age-disruption/Don’t hesitate to contact me personally if you feel I can help you make progress in your organisation – whatever your level and challenge.

I have disrupted the norm in my own small way and I feel it is a critical lesson learned as we head into the more in certain times of the ‘future of work’, new leadership practices, more challenges for organisations everywhere and the need for a strong human touch to bring talented people together and enable high performance. It’s not easy and it requires a renewed energy for learning.

What’s your story?